Northern Connections

The OECD Territorial Review of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region

10 December 2019 - Published by Anne Katrine Arentsen
The publication calls for “thinking big” beyond local, state, and even national boundaries to leverage the benefits of more effective regional integration. Joining forces to achieve a critical mass is particularly relevant given the construction of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, our direct link to Denmark and open further economic opportunities with Scandinavia. The review offers targeted policy recommendations to strengthen the capacity of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region to innovate, improve transport and housing planning, and develop an attractive branding strategy to maximize benefits for the entire region in the long term.

This review is part of a series of OECD Territorial Reviews created in 2001 to support regional development at the multi-country, country, regional and metropolitan scale. As a benchmark amongst others, were Rotterdam-The Hague (The Netherlands) and Västra-Götaland (Sweden).

With almost 5.4 million inhabitants, the Hamburg Metropolitan Region (HMR) covers a heterogeneous mix of urban and rural areas fragmented across four federal states (the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and parts of three states surrounding it: Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Lower Saxony).

Despite the presence of a dynamic port, a diversified range of economic clusters, top-class research facilities, a wealth of cultural, natural and recreational assets, and a generally high level of quality of life, the Hamburg Metropolitan Region (HMR) is losing ground to other comparable OECD metropolitan regions, including within Germany. Although HMR enjoys a relatively high level of GDP per capita and labor productivity, it falls behind other high-productivity OECD metropolitan regions such as Boston (US), Copenhagen (Denmark), or Gothenburg (Sweden).

Stronger co-operation between HMR and German and European functional regions will help enhance HMR’s capacity for innovation and complement its existing strengths. Given their geographic proximity and already existing economic linkages with HMR, the Copenhagen-Malmö-Gothenburg-Oslo corridor is a natural partner for collaboration. In particular, supporting further research co-operation between XFEL and the European Spallation Source (ESS) research facility located in Lund (Sweden) would yield significant mutual benefits to HMR and international partners.

One obstacle to improve the economic capability beyond the city borders of Hamburg would be overcoming the fragmentation, especially regarding the fact that there are existing four regional Innovation Strategies. Only the state of Hamburg is among the 25% most innovative European regions as ranked by the European Regional Innovation Score Within Germany, there is a significant difference between Hamburg Metropolitan Region and southern German metropolitan regions in terms of innovation performance, notably in patent applications, public-private co-publications and innovation in SMEs. In comparison with international regions of similar size, HMR falls behind innovation leaders such as Copenhagen, Rotterdam or Gothenburg. Gothenburg-Oslo corridor an ideal partner for further internationalization of innovation in HMR.
Strengthen collaboration across local, state, and national boundaries – notably with Scandinavia – to raise HMR’s international profile.

An overarching recommendation is to “think big” beyond local, state, and even national boundaries to achieve a critical mass in the international context and maximize benefits for the entire region in the long term.

HMR has the potential to become a global leader in renewable energy
Explicitly the OECD states, that HMR is in a unique position to take advantage of the energy transition in Germany. It could benefit from its high volume of onshore wind power and the potential of offshore wind energy, the connection of Scandinavia’s hydropower generation with the Central European grid, and the intersections of the supra-regional gas transmission pipelines with future LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals. Just these days Hamburg and northern Germany as such are ushering in a new era of hydrogen.
With this diagnosis and recommendations, we are confident to reach out for a better future, which has already begun. One asset for the future is to use the learnings of our Northern Connection Project. The method of Cross Border Living Labs would allow our SMEs not only a broader scope of business options but also opens the eyes to other economic and business cultures.

The Hamburg partners of Northern Connection also took an active part in the local team of the OECD. This gave us the chance to feed in our “Scandinavian experience”.